Chiang epigraphs removed but controversy continues

Several small clashes break out between rival groups at the site

Workers remove the character "zhong" from the "da zhong zhi zheng" inscription on the main gateway of the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall yesterday aft

Workers remove the character "zhong" from the "da zhong zhi zheng" inscription on the main gateway of the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall yesterday aft

The Chinese characters paying homage to Chiang Kai-shek were finally removed from both sides of the archway of Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall's main gate yesterday afternoon, drawing a fine from the Taipei City Government, which had adamantly opposed the project.
New characters reading "Liberty Square" was scheduled to be installed in place of the two removed inscriptions that read "da zhong zhi zheng."
Ministry of Education Chief Secretary Chuang Kuo-jung, charged with overseeing the work, said he did not feel any excitement over the removal of the characters because he knew many people would feel unhappy that they were no longer there.
"As you can see, I did not applaud when the inscriptions were torn down. In my heart, I know some people have a strong attachment to Chiang, and I understand it," Chuang said.
"I feel their removal can only be seen as an attempt to reach a more reasonable balance" toward a just society, Chuang said. "If we could not even remove this authoritarian symbol and change its name, how could we embrace the values of freedom and democracy."
Chuang said the ministry, which is in charge of the memorial, has no other plans to modify the site. There had been discussion of removing the huge statue of Chiang Kai-shek inside the memorial and demolishing the wall surrounding the park.
Taipei City, which has aggressively fought the changing of the memorial's name and removal of the plaques and inscriptions, fined the Education Ministry NT$1 million for damaging a historical site.
Lee Yung-ping, the director of the city's Cultural Affairs Department, accused the ministry of not using the proper technique in removing the inscriptions and a tablet reading "Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall" located above the main monument that was still in the process of being taken down.
The city imposed a fine of NT$500,000 for damaging both the inscriptions and tablets.
Yeh Ching-yuan, the chairman of the city's Law and Regulation Commission, and Su Ying-kuei, the commissioner of the city's Department of Labor, also appeared at the site yesterday to try and halt the project.
Holding a portable speaker, Yeh urged construction workers to stop working and asked policemen at the site to arrest anybody who disobeyed his order, saying the Ministry of Education had violated the Criminal Code.
But neither his effort, nor a similar effort later in the day by Su, succeeded.
Several small clashes broke out between rival groups who had gathered at the site, but they were quickly snuffed out by a small contingent of policemen on hand.
The four characters that were removed from both the inside and outside face of the main gate's archway yesterday - "da zhong zhi zheng - were seen as praising the controversial late President Chiang as a figure of integrity and greatness.
The eight metal characters, each measuring around 2 meters by 2 meters and bolted into the archway, were removed within a span of three hours, with the last character facing Zhongshan South Road coming down at around 5:30 p.m., but not before a few delays occurred.
The contractor was temporarily slowed in the morning because the crane hired for the job never showed up. The contractor said the crane owner told him he had received threats and was told not to help remove the inscriptions.
Another crane was summoned from another county and arrived at 10 a.m. but work still proceeded slowly, with only one bolt removed in the first two hours. The process picked up after the contractor found the proper tools to remove the bolts.
Work to remove the tablet over the monument was halted yesterday after the city government judged the job site to be substandard. The Education Ministry applied to resume work yesterday, and the labor department said it would inspect the site for evaluation on Monday.